Family Audio Tour: The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife

Dramatic oil painting crowded with people, with a man in armour and a woman at centre being married by a priest.
Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, c.1854. Photo © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, c.1854

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Transcript

Ide:
Every picture tells a story! 

Eoin:
Every picture?

Ide:
Yes, but this picture tells a bigger story than usual, an important story from the history of Ireland. 

Eoin:
Is that why it’s so massive? 

Ide:
It’s the biggest painting in the gallery!

Eoin:
It’s so big I don’t know where to start looking. With a book, the story always begins on the first page – but here, I’ve no idea.

Ide:
Well the artist tells you where to look by putting the most important people in the most important place – bang in the middle – and by shining a bright light onto them – like a spotlight.

Eoin:
[as if searching] Um, In the middle… there’s man in a helmet and armour – like a knight – and a girl wearing a crown and golden cape – like a princess . They’re holding hands. Are they getting married?

Ide:
Yes. She’s an Irish princess called Aoife - her father, the King of Leinster, is standing behind her, wearing a crown. And she’s marrying a man called Strongbow, who was an Anglo-Norman leader.

Eoin:
But, I thought weddings were meant to be happy. There are loads of injured or dead people here. And soldiers. And there’s smoke coming out of the castle.

Ide:
The story goes that the King of Leinster had lost his land to other Irish leaders, and so he asked Strongbow to help him get it back – that’s why that big battle’s happening in the background. When Strongbow won, in order to thank him, the King gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage. And that’s the story of how the Normans arrived in Ireland.

Eoin:
But, not everyone looks happy about it – the old harpist looks sad, and the woman next to him, with her arms up in the air, looks horrified! Maybe they’re Irish not Norman. 

Ide:
There are two sides to every story, and this artist, Daniel Maclise, decided to show both sides.

Eoin:
Hm, I’ll have to think up a good story for my masterpiece.

Ide:
And you, if you had to paint a story, what story would it be? Tell whoever you’re with.

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